INTERVIEW: Satellite Mode

12/21/2015 Tunes For Loons 0 Comments

Congrats Satellite Mode! Together we have increased your digital footprint to that of a pre-mature baby. Mazel! We met up with these bitches (a term we use lovingly, like in prison) for boozy brunch yesterday, and no lie they were the shit. Though Alex Marko and Jess Carvo of Satellite Mode have just two songs, they are fast gaining traction on the indie music scene. Their newest track "Aphrodite" dropped today, and we got a chance to talk about the inspiration behind it as well as their creative process. We also found out Alex used to live with our landlord, and discussed hard-hitting issues such as the underrated hotness of Aziz Ansari, trendy toddler clothes, and puppy-sized elephants.

T4L: We know you guys are a new band (the duo dropped their first track, Wild Excuses, last month). Is this the first musical act you've been apart of or have there been past projects?
Alex Marko: Jess is probably a little more impressive than me so I'll go first so she doesn't steal my thunder.
Jess Carvo: Can you record my eyeroll?
AM: What basically got me into the music thing was that I was classically trained in piano and I was like "this is not really fun." Then 4th grade came and they let you pick an instrument. I chose saxophone and that changed my life. I started listening to jazz and doing musical improvization. Later on, I was in a couple bands, one big one was called The Day Life. We opened for some cooler people: Ben Kweller, Matt Nathanson. The band was kind of Beatles-esque rock. A lot of harmonies. Then I graduated college and I really wanted to pursue music as my thing. Working with Jess has been great because we're both just very driven.
JC: I was very much a singer. I did classical training—

We were then interrupted by the waitstaff (#rude). However, we quickly forgave
their interruption as they set down FREE CHURROS in front of us. Idk,
if you've ever experienced the elation of receiving complimentary churros, but it's 

basically the best thing that can happen to a hungover 23-year-old.

JC: Yeah, so, I dabbled in instruments and stuff as a kid, but I decided to focus just on singing so I did a lot of choral, jazz ensembles, classical stuff. I went to school and ended up being in an a capella group where I learned how to arrange music. A lot of singers don't get the chance to do that, so that kind of changed everything for me. I started thinking about production and mixing, and actually at that point I also ended up having voice problems. I started to teach myself instruments because I was really afraid of not being able to sing and write anymore. But I ended up getting surgery and a little later my a capella group got on the Sing-Off with the Pentatonix*. So we were on the show with them and then after than I started learning how to plug instruments in because I had never done that and now, here we are I guess.

*SO many regrets about not asking for more details on the reality-television 
experience. Was she forced to say cheesy scripted lines and pass them off as her own 
thoughts? Is Nick Lachey as unnervingly shiny in real life as he looks in all his pictures? 
Did you ever meet the EP of the show, Mark Burnett, and can you ask him to put me on 
Survivor please?

T4L: That's interesting that you guys are both classically trained but gravitate towards this different kind of sound.
JC: I think we're both into the freedom of expression. I know that kind of sounds cliché, but there's just a lot of rules [when taking the classical route] that I was never attracted to.
AM: Both being classically trained definitely helps. Working with Jess in the studio is great because we can talk about different chord changes and things like that and she's also such a great partner in songwriting. Jess and I truly collaborate and I think that's really special. It's not just the melody and the lyrics, it's the production too. Even though Jess is a really amazing singer, she has a production ear, and even though I'm the production guy, I have an ear for melody. It's really cool to just have that other opinion when songwriting so I think that kind of elevates our songs.

T4L: So you guys met at a BMI showcase. How quickly after you met did you start working of music together?
AM: We started pretty quickly but it wasn't serious. We were both working on different projects and were content with what we were doing. After about 6 months, pretty much at the same time, we had tragic things happen to us respectively and we used this project as a solace for that. We had this strange connection to each other, musically. The initial idea before this time was to shop our music around, but then we started writing this music that was too personal to us. We were like this sound isn't anyone else's, it's ours.

T4L: How did you come up with the stage name?
AM: The band name came from our writing together. During our sessions we just wanted to shut out the outside world to tune into what was true, so we always put our phones on airplane mode. We'd kind of giggle with each other like "Gotta go on airplane mode." and we'd start writing and the at one point we were like "Oh! That should be our band name." And that's it, that's sort of how we became a band, right?
JC: Yeah, we'll you g-chatted me originally. (G-Chat: The Hinge for Musical Artists)
AM: Oh yeah, I didn't even e-mail. Your away message was off, so...
JC: So, yeah you g-chatted me. And I was just online and home recovering from hip-surgery because I'm like 75. And I was really excited because I actually had been looking to do something like that and expand so I just responded and was like "Yeah! I'll hobble over to you! When?"

T4L: We wanna ask you about your cover art. There seems to be a fruit theme. Can we ask about that? What is the inspiration?
JC: It wasn't that well thought out, but I just know Alex had this idea—and I was like "That sounds cool."
AM: One of the ideas we came up with was putting headphones in watermelon, because we thought it would be a cool visual thing. So we did that in a photoshoot, and then it turned out really well...and we thought screw it, let's just stick with fruit. And we just went with it, because it's fun.
JC: And it doesn't cost us any money.
AM: And you can eat it afterwards!

T4L: And it's nutritious and promoting a healthy message.
AM: And it's really easy to do, and it's nothing really deeper than we picked up and just rolled with it.

T4L: The song you're releasing tomorrow, what's the fruit on it?
AM: It's oranges and limes—headphones coming out of an orange.

T4L: What was the writing process like behind the song (Aphrodite)? Where does it come from?
JC: It was the most fun one to write, I would say.
AM: It happened in like 20 minutes. I was in the studio and Jess came over—it happened super naturally. We wrote the words together. It's about maturing in the different relationships over your life. Kind of like how in high school you have a different type of relationship than when you're in college, or in New York. And how when you find the person, the ways in which your life develops [with them] and how you change too. It's kind of like a timeline almost.

T4L: We want to ask about live performing—have you done any shows yet as Satellite Mode?
AM: Not yet. We've played some acoustic shows just to see the reception of the songs. And that's gone really well. The cool thing about our music is that it isn't just [living as] electronic music. When you play it acoustic it works too. We're starting to tinker with that a little and see what that sounds like. We haven't played yet as a full band, but we're talking to some cool people. Stay tuned right?

T4L: Would it just be the two of you?
AM: It's probably going to be the two of us and a drummer. But who knows. By the time we play maybe we'll have a bassist or a guitarist. Just trying to keep it small.
JC: Maybe we'll add a clown.

T4L: A clown can be part of your brand. Fruit and clowns. Do you get stage fright at all when performing?
AM: I get nervous sometimes but if you don't get nervous you don't care about something, you know?
JC: For me it depends. If it's like a new thing—a new instrument or a new song, I get really quiet and I can't talk to anyone beforehand. I've kind of gotten over that. I feel bad, because people have come out to a show and I feel like I should be talking to them and saying hi, but it makes me anxious. I guess that's stage fright. Just not being in the space to show people how happy I am that they're there. I feel like I'd rather lock myself in the green room. Like a weirdo.

T4L: So maybe [your anxiety comes] not even from the performing itself, but the inbetween stuff?
JC: Yeah definitely. Once it gets started, I'm like alright. It's just the right before.
AM: That's true.
JC: When I'm trying something new for the first time.

T4L: Time for a couple random questions. If you were stuck on a desert island with one other musician, who would it be?
AM: Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day.
JC: Bruce Springsteen.

(That was a trick question, guys, you were supposed to say each other! #jk #Bruceorbust)

T4L: What are you obsessed with right now? What are you listening to?
AM: I like Miike Snow. The new Bieber stuff is great. You can't hate on him! It doesn't get much better than him right now.
JC: I'm starting to like him.

T4L: Anything else?
AM: My favorite song right now is called "How We Be" by Sin Kane. It's a really good walking song. Tei Shi. The Zombies "This Will Be Our Year."
JC: Bieber. I just discovered the full album and I'm obsessed. I'm excited for the new Sia album to come out. I've gotten back into Feist 2007.

We then wandered onto the topic of Star Wars, which I'm pretty sure was the case for 
98% of Sunday brunches this weekend. For real, people care more about Star Wars than 
they do about the election #help. 

AM: I'm not going to say anything about it, but you really have to see it. I'm seeing it again Wednesday.

T4L: Real commitment.
AM: Trust me, you're going to want to see it again too.

There is 4 minutes of us rambling about our deep love of Amy Pohler and Tina 
Fey, spurred on by our discussion of their latest movie Sisters. (Which we loved 
by the way. Bobby Moynihan is legend) Which led us to discussion of Parks and 
Rec. Which led us to...

T4L: Favorite TV that you've been watching?
AM: Parks and Rec. I haven't finished it yet!
JC: Master of None. (Satellite Mode = Aziz groupies.)

JC: I wish he was single. I love him.
AM: You know people say I look like Aziz.
JC: Cool story.
AM: Just saying.
JC: Have you guys seen The Leftovers? It's amazing. But I skipped the first season. I only watched the second.

T4L: Anything else?
AM: I like World War 2 documentaries. And House of Cards.

We started raving about Downton Abbey, and Alex thought it was about monks. lol

T4L: You kind of alluded to this earlier, but we're curious: in your music, does most of the stuff come from an autobiographical place or is it kind of just a theme you get attached to or a concept you want to explore?
JC: I think it became both. I think a lot of it is subconscious. A lot of it is things that were just coming out. Things that you shouldn't say, things that you want to say.
AM: I think the biggest thing for us is truth. It's honesty. We're just trying to be truthful and honest about how we feel, whether it's autobiographical or something someone we know is dealing with. It is a combo.  It's not non-fiction, but it's not Harry Potter.
JC: I think a lot of times it feels like an answer is found through the writing process. One thing we do try to to do is not have too much cliché language. One thing that's easy to do in this genre is get caught up in a lot of that and we try not to.

T4L: Mundane question, but where do you guys write?
AM: Usually my apartment. We write and record in my apartment. I have a tiny-ass bedroom, but in there is a keyboard, computers, guitars. That's literally all you need these days. I have a good mic, and that's it really.

We then were treated to the most entertaining anecdote of the afternoon. Long story short, 
Alex's ideal fashion style is to dress like a high-end Soho infant. So if you own that 
toddler clothing shop on Houston and see a guy who kind of looks like Aziz walks in, just 
be warned he is not on there to buy clothes for his niece. If he says that, it is a lie and he 
is looking to purchase that brontosaurus shirt for his own use. 

T4L: Have you gotten any feedback through social media or elsewhere regarding your first track (Wild Excuses)?
AM: Yeah, definitely. People have been really receptive, sending us SoundCloud messages, Instagram messages. It's been nice to connect with people all over the world about your music. I feel really lucky to be musicians in this time. A lot of people are like "It's impossible to make a buck" but, no, you have the world at your fingertips now. If the music is good, it will grow a fanbase, if it's not, you'll probably still grow a fan base if you work hard.
JC: I just think it's like any work someone does. It's about integrity and how passionate you are about it. If it speaks to people, then it will work. You just have to have faith.
AM: Also, we're in our little nugget of reality. We have our "studio" and we never pushed our stuff out to anybody yet. So when the first song was well received, it was cool for us to be like "people really like it!" And we're gonna keep working hard because it makes people feel good. If we can make as many people as we can feel good through our music, that's amazing.

Then we left and got ice cream. (Because what else would you do after a full Mexican 
brunch in December?) But we couldn't leave Rosie's without conducting a thought-
provoking segment of "Would You Rather" first: 


Would you rather...

Wear oven mitts for a year or ski boot?
Both chose ski boots.

Own an elephant-sized puppy or puppy-sized elephant?
In an ideal world, elephant-sized puppy. But given the size of apartments in
New York, puppy-sized elephant.

A head the size of a tennis ball or the size of a watermelon?
Watermelons! (Because who doesn't dream of looking like Hey Arnold?)

Never listen to Christmas music again or only listen to only listen to Christmas music?
Never again. (Fucking duh.)

Live in the house of your dreams but it doesn't have internet, or live where you are forever? 
Where you are FOREVER. (#WifiORdieeeee)

Would you rather be the famous author of Twilight or the famous author of 
every Nickelback song?
(immediately) Twilight.